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Columns

  • Company has 1968 aerial photos of area

    Ed Miller of State Aerial Farm Statistics Inc., telephoned the other day to tell me he was in the area. Ed and I have played phone tag during the past year, because he has something that I, as a historian, am interested in.

    Back in 1968, when I was a high school junior, this firm took photographs of Fayette County’s farms and towns. Once this was done, salespeople visited the farms and businesses to see if the owner would like to purchase the image painted on canvas.

  • Airplane crash in 1951 remembered

    On the morning of Aug. 27, 1951, folks in Vandalia were shaken up when sounds of a small airplane in distress filled the morning sky.

    Witnesses told The Vandalia Leader that the airplane was observed making three or more spirals through the clouds, and next they observed its rapid angular descent with throttle wide open, virtually skimming treetops.

    The four-passenger Bonanza Beechcraft airplane made a nose-dive into Carl Boggs’ car, which was parked along Sixth Street near the Old Capitol Monument Works, where he was employed at the time.

  • Christiana Tillson recorded pioneer life

    Born Christiana Holmes at Kingston, Mass., she suffered culture shock when she moved with her new husband, John Tillson, to the backwoods of Montgomery County, Ill., in October 1822.

    Last week, I referred to Christiana’s book, "A Woman’s Story Of Pioneer Illinois," written two years before her death in 1872. The book was privately printed in Massachusetts, and intended for family and close friends.

  • Early church services long and colorful

    Lately, the book that has sat on my bedside table for nightly reading has been the "1882 History of Bond and Montgomery County, Illinois." W. H. Perrin was the editor, and he gathered together an excellent array of writers for this book.

    Perrin’s writers traveled about both counties and interviewed old settlers, thereby preserving the earliest memories of when the white men first settled in this territory.

  • Samuel D. Davis had local connection

    “Father told us children that when he was about 16 years old he was living in York County, Pa. When the war came, his father, Joseph, was drafted, but did not want to enter the service of his country, and asked my father’s oldest brother if he would go in his stead. My uncle had a premonition that if he went to war, he would be killed.

    “Father, who was a few months past 16, said he would go to the front if they would accept him. Well, to make a long story short, father reported to the recruiting station and made inquiry if he would be accepted.

  • Amateur photographer preserved history

    Accompanying my column last week was a picture staged and photographed by Granville Blankenship in January 1920. That particular picture of pelts mounted on a barn won him a $4 cash prize.

    Granville described himself as an amateur photographer, according to his daughter, Mila Elam, of Bear Grove Township.

    Mila and her late husband, Loren Elam, were my "end of the road" neighbors when I was a newlywed in 1976. My husband, Dale, and I rented a house not far from the Elam homestead for a little over three years, and we became good friends.

  • Grocer fleeced in raccoon skin scam

    From the time of the earliest settlements in Fayette County, money was rarely used. The settlers bartered skins for goods.

    James Evans, whose father, Akin, was Fayette County’s sheriff and tax collector in 1836-1839, 1846-1849 and 1852-1854, wrote that if you did not have gold or silver to pay your taxes, you could catch a few raccoons and pay your taxes with their skins. You could not pay with paper money, as it was not legal tender.

  • Luster family has many tales to tell

    The Luster family made its way into the wilderness that was Fayette County before statehood. At the head of the clan was Archibald Luster, who with his wife, Malinda Yarbrough, lived in the southwestern part of the county.

    Some of their sons moved across the Kaskaskia River and settled in the Pinhook area, about four miles southeast of Vandalia. Archibald and Malinda were parents of nine children: Henry, born in 1778, Chana, William, Josiah, Malinda, Catherine, Mary, David and Philip, the youngest, born in 1801.

  • Old family photos spawn identity question

    Helen Luster, of the Pinhook community, and I have corresponded for several years now. In her occasional letters, she has shared with me old stories passed down through the Luster family, several of which I have repeated in this column.

    Last week, I received a note from Helen, accompanied by two pictures. She wrote about a mild controversy in the Luster family over the identification of a couple in an old photo.

  • Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a hopeless addict. I get like this every four years.

    Okay, I'll admit it. I'm a hopeless addict. I get like this every four years.

    I mean, I can't make it even a couple hours without a fix.

    Maybe I need a support group where I could stand up and say: "My name is Dave, and I'm an Olympic junkie."

    In most sporting events, I've gotten sufficiently cynical that I can hit the remote after a quick progress check. I have too many things on my "to do" list to just sit in front of the tube for hours.